What is PRONTO! and who is the service for?
PRONTO! is a new, fast, FREE and confidential rapid HIV testing service. We also offer STI Testing services that are free for current Medicare Card holders.
Pronto! has been designed to specifically cater for gay men and other men who have sex with men. We are staffed by those who know you best!
Our model of service is a ‘peer’ model – the guys doing the testing are the same as you.
They have been extensively trained to provide these tests and are all accredited to do so.
What is a Rapid HIV Test?
At PRONTO! we use the Alere Combo Ag/AB Rapid HIV test to screen for HIV antibodies and HIV Antigens. Rather than wait a week for your test results, you’re able to get a result for your test within 20 minutes – that’s what makes it rapid!
How much does it cost?
Nothing! PRONTO! Rapid HIV Testing is FREE! STI Tests are free for Medicare Card holders, just bring your Medicare card to your appointment. Clients without Medicare can still have the STI screen, however pathology lab fees apply. Ask our reception or testing staff for more information on fees.
Is it easy to get an appointment?
It’s very easy – you can book an appointment to see a Test Facilitator online on this website. We’re open from 9am – 8pm on Mon, – Thurs, and 9-7pm Fridays. We open between 10.30 – 2.30pm on Saturdays. We’re located at 175 Rose St., Fitzroy – just near the corner of Smith and Rose St.
Alternatively, call us up (9416 2889) and we’ll get you in! If you walk in, there might be a spot for you, or you might have to wait for one.
What is a Test Facilitator?
The Test Facilitators at PRONTO! are Melbourne gay guys who have been trained to provide health promotion advice and perform a rapid screening test for HIV and STI’s.
Peer Test Facilitators have proven to be very effective at increasing the number of gay men accessing HIV and STI testing services in many different settings around the world. PRONTO! Test Facilitators provide a friendly, appropriate and professional testing experience for gay men and other men who have sex with men. The feedback from clients so far has been fantastic – we offer a different testing experience to most services – more friendly, more relaxed, in a cool space. There’s nothing and no-one to be scared of at PRONTO!
How does the rapid testing process work?
The Rapid Tests we use ‘react’ in the presence of antibodies and antigens, which are produced by the body after HIV has entered the bloodstream.
During your appointment, we perform a painless fingerprick and transfer two drops of blood to the test device, we set a timer for 20 minutes for the HIV test.. Whilst the tests are doing their thing we have a chat about your risk for HIV and other STIs.
Does a rapid test have a window period like a standard test?
Yes. Although we can deliver a result very quickly, a window period of 12 weeks applies for rapid HIV at PRONTO!. This means that any exposure you may have had in the 12 weeks before your test will not be covered. If you have had a risk in the last 12 weeks we will recommend you test again 12 weeks from then – this is because the rapid tests are not so good at picking up very recent infections.
Can you remind me how the window period works?
Sure. The window period is the time it can take for antibodies and antigens to appear in your blood at high enough levels for the test to detect them.
When you are exposed to an infection, like HIV , your immune system (the defence system in your body) responds by producing very specific antibodies and antigens in response to the infection . The HIV test is an antibody / antigen test – it picks up these antibodies and antigens to HIV in the blood sample.
At PRONTO, the test we use looks for HIV-antibodies and antigens and not the virus itself. So if you get tested after you’ve been exposed to HIV but before the body has had a chance to produce sufficient HIV-antibodies or antigens, the test will not ‘react’ and you will get a negative result even though you are, in fact, becoming HIV positive. This is known as the “window period”.
So, if I had had unprotected sex on the weekend, the rapid test wouldn’t cover it?
That’s correct – it wouldn’t. Any risk of exposure to HIV inside the 12 week window period will not be reflected in the result of the test. Although most people will produce enough antibodies or antigens after only 6 weeks, it is important to test after a full 12 weeks from your last risk to be sure that the test result is accurate.
If you’ve had a risk of HIV exposure in the last 72 hours (regardless of whether you top or bottom) you may need PEP (medication to stop HIV taking hold in your body) and you should call the PEP hotline immediately on 1800 889 887. The PEP hotline is an excellent service available 24-hours 7 days a week. Experienced sexual health/HIV nurses take PEP calls and are the best people to talk to about a recent risk. After you’ve told them what’s happened, they’ll let you know how to get hold of PEP medication, if they think it is appropriate. PEP is very effective at preventing HIV infection taking hold in the body after an exposure, but you need to get to it quickly, the sooner the better.
What if I have symptoms of an STI?
If you have symptoms of a sexually transmissible infection (STI), or are concerned about a recent risk you should see a gay friendly doctor (e.g. The Centre Clinic (bulk billing), Prahran Market Clinic, Northside Clinic) or your local sexual health centre (such as Melbourne Sexual Health Centre).
What are the signs or symptoms of an STI?
You can acquire an STI and not develop any signs or symptoms. You cannot rely on the absence of symptoms to mean you are STI free.
When you do get symptoms, they can vary depending on the nature of the infection.
The best rule of thumb is that if you notice changes in your body – for example itching or any discharge from the cock or arse – you should see a doctor or go to a sexual health clinic to get it checked out and, if necessary, treated. If the symptoms are clear and obvious, doctors may choose to treat immediately rather than waiting for test results to come through, which means you get better faster. They will also ask you to abstain from sex for a while after treatment and to contact any recent sexual partners who may have been the source of your infection or who you may have passed the infection onto. This can be done anonymously through the Drama Down Under website (see below).
In terms of testing for HIV, is rapid testing at PRONTO! accurate?
Yes – the Alere Determine 1/2 test device is extremely accurate, above 99% accurate, in fact. If the test does not react, this is a ‘non-reactive’ result. This means you’re HIV-negative as of 12 weeks ago, taking into account the window period.
A friend was saying something about a ‘false positive’. What’s that?
The rapid HIV test is very sensitive. This ensures that if HIV antibodies are present in a blood sample, the test will always react. But because the test is so sensitive, very occasionally the test reacts when there are no HIV antibodies present. This is known as a ‘false positive.’ Basically, it means you get a reactive result at PRONTO! but when we run further tests in a lab, the result comes back negative. This is very unusual, but possible, so we always run a confirmatory test on all reactive HIV results at PRONTO!
Are ‘false positives’ common?
No – the vast majority of ‘reactive’ rapid HIV test results go on to be confirmed as positive in the lab. Amongst men who have sex with men in Melbourne we expect ‘false positives’ to be rare, but, because of the small possibility of a ‘false positive,’ a rapid HIV reactive test result is considered provisional until we confirm the presence of HIV using a standard HIV blood test in a lab.
So, if I get a reactive result, you will need to do a standard blood test?
That’s right – if you get a reactive result we need to confirm this by taking a blood sample from a vein in your arm and sending it to a lab for testing. If this happens, you will need to come back a week later to get your results.
But a negative result means I’m HIV-negative?
A non-reactive result means you are HIV-negative up to three months ago. To have a clear picture about you’re HIV status, you need to test regularly, always taking into account the window period. We recommend routine testing every 3 months.
If you have more specific questions about your risk for HIV or your sexual health please contact Melbourne Sexual Health Centre information line on (03) 9341 6200.